Fringe Box



Stage Dragon: Grange Park Opera’s Daughter of the Regiment

Published on: 10 Jun, 2024
Updated on: 10 Jun, 2024

By Alice Fowler

Opera can sometimes seem an overly serious business. Not so at Grange Park Opera, where a sparkling new production of Donizetti’s comic opera Daughter of the Regiment overflows with spirit and charm performed at West Horsley Place.

The production transports us from medieval West Horsley Place to Napoleonic France, where we follow the fortunes of Marie, a vivandiere – a young woman adopted as a baby by the fictional French 21st Regiment, and brought up by them as their “daughter”.

Sergeant Sulpice (Enrico Marabelli) of the 21st Regiment and the Regiment’s “daughter” Marie (Julia Sitkovetsky).

Spirited, and fully able to cajole her soldier “fathers”, Marie wishes to marry as she pleases: cue for conflict, high emotion and many twists of fortune.

Co-directors Nikki Woollaston and John Doyle bring wonderful verve and freshness to Donizetti’s opera, first performed in Paris in 1840.

Soprano Julia Sitkovetsky excels as Marie, while Maltese tenor Nico Darmanin shines as Tonio, the young Tyrolean who captures her heart.

Tonio (Nico Darmanin) declares his love against a backdrop of artillery boxes.

Swerves of plot provide ample opportunity for humour, which this talented cast exploits to the full: notably Anna Steiger as the Marquise of Berkenfield (supposedly, Marie’s aunt), Enrico Marabelli as Sergeant Sulpice and Harriet Thorpe (best known for her role in EastEnders) as the Duchess of Krakenthorp.

The Gascoigne Orchestra, conducted by Claire Levacher and led by Robert Salter, is on excellent form. Darmanin achieves with aplomb the famous aria Ah mes amis!, with its challenging sequence of top Cs: the ultimate note for most tenors’ vocal range.

Sitkovetsky, meanwhile – a dramatic soprano with an international reputation – is a heroine we can root for.

The Marquise of Bergenfield (Anna Steiger) and the Duchess of Krakenthorp (Harriet Thorpe) plot Marie’s future.

Set designs are simple but effective: a set inspired by wooden artillery boxes in the first act, and the grand interior of the Marquise of Berkenfield’s chateau in the second.

Costumes designed by Gabrielle Dalton are also a delight.

The wooden balconies of the Opera in the Woods have recently been painted a fetching shade of red by Grange Park Opera’s founder and trail-blazing leader, Wasfi Kani, and a small team.

This adds to the richness of surroundings, and contributes to a general sense that this brave venture – creating a new opera house from scratch – is really hitting its stride.

Other highlights of the Grange Park Opera 2024 season include Bryn Terfel singing Rachmaninoff and Puccini, and a highly anticipated production of Janacek’s Katya Kabanova.

The season runs until July 14. For full details, see

The beautiful West Horsley Place.

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